Did Alternate Ending Create a New Style of Lager?

A few Alternate Ending customers probably understand the significance of what the brewery recently has been making. But most probably don’t. Perhaps someday it will be a BJCP-classified style, but for now, the New Jersey brewery is happily growing its Bomba Iberian Lager brand with recent expansion beyond its taproom and next-door neighbor, James Beard-nominated Lita.

“We’ve had some really great feedback we just went on a ride with our Philadelphia distributor, and a lot of the accounts really liked that beer,” said co-founder Scott Novick. “So we’re going to start distributing it a little more, hopefully looking for some high-end restaurants to maybe partner with.”

Using a double decoction of shortgrain rice and an addition of saffron in the whirlpool helps Bomba step away from a typical light Lager.

“It’s balanced. It’s very light, it’s drinkable,” said brewer Brenden Arnold. “After you take a sip, you kind of think about it and you can pick all of those little things out. But if you don’t think about it, it’s just a crusher, that goes really great with the paella over (at Lita).

“A little residual sweetness goes well with the spiciness or the richness of that food also. It just kind of hit, it’s one of those things. It made more sense for us to go with the Iberian Lager route. It just really has a nice ring to it. It rolls off the tongue. It just worked out really well.”

Made to help celebrate the opening of Lita, Novick and a team from the restaurant explored the markets of Valencia, Spain to research the home of paella. The rice of paella along with saffron seemed to be a good fit. So much so that the one-off is now a standard part of the brewery’s rotation and Novick bought two 20-barrel horizontal lagering tanks to scale up production.

Alternate Ending’s Brenden Arnold Explains the Process of Making
Bomba Iberian Lager in Our Brewer Mag Podcast

“That process, we get a little more richness out of the Pilsner malt when you do boil that grain,” Arnold said. “There’s a little contribution from the rice but I think your palate has to be sensitive to that, I can always taste the rice in a Rice Lager. I know not everybody can.

“After that mash that lends us with a fairly fermentable wort, but I didn’t want this particular beer to be super dry. So it finishes more along the lines of a Czech Pale Lager at just around a 4 Plato. So that runs us about 4% alcohol. We use Hallertau Mittelfruh and Mandarina Bavaria. So I’ve kind of brought the noble hop character but a little bit of that fruitiness in to meld well with the saffron later in the whirlpool.”

And a little saffron goes a long way, Novick added. Arnold said it’s about one gram of saffron threads that have been slightly bruised to be added per barrel.

“It doesn’t turn it red or yellow, but it gives a little bit of that golden hue to it,” he said. “I think it really lends itself to the final color just slightly enough to make it different. It just looks so pretty in a glass.”

Arnold said they did a few trials over a few pints to see where that color change would happen and where any leatheriness of the flavor of saffron would really come out.

“It still needs to be really pleasant, but be there,” he said. “With the hop character in the beer as well it just kind of keeps it harmonious and keeps that earthiness masks a little bit with the noble hops.”

Some of the customers do understand the technical aspects of the beer but for the most part, Arnold said customers just want a really nice, clean beer.

“This one in particular was kind of designed to pair well with food. It’s a very complimentary flavor with a lot of the spicier foods that they have there,” he said about the Lita menu. “It’s been popular enough that it became a house beer of ours. So as opposed to being a one-off fun thing. Now, it’s scaled up to 20-barrel production Lager, and it’s on all the time.”

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